Taking infants on a plane can be a royal pain

The Travel Adviser: It’s not always fun being on a plane with them and it’s far harder being a parent of an infant on a plane.

By
February 20, 2011 02:55
4 minute read.
Baby sleeping in cot

baby in cot 311. (photo credit: Illustrative photo)

Traveling with infants is never easy.

It’s not always fun being on a plane with them and it’s far harder being a parent of an infant on a plane. It’s even harder when you’re flying more than 30 hours. And the worse feeling of all is when you’re being denied permission to fly solely because of your infant.

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Welcome to the nightmare that Esti and Yitz recently endured. The two have worked very hard, like so many young people here. Their first 10 years post army were a combination of “work hard and travel harder.”

They met, fell in love, got married and started a family. Bar came first, followed 18 months later by Tal.

While raising two small children, they both had to work to meet their basic needs and both longed to take a break.

So when the siren call to travel couldn’t be silenced, they scrounged together enough money to traipse around Australia and New Zealand for three months.

They had heard from family and friends that infants younger than two, while not getting a seat, only pay 10 percent of an adult fare.



Please don’t presume they didn’t know the value of money. Quite the contrary. They elected to fly to New Zealand on a Royal Jordanian ticket from Tel Aviv to Amman to Hong Kong and then using Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to Auckland.

They chose this combination of airlines both for the ease of flights and, more importantly, for the price. Royal Jordanian was emphatic that infants younger than two need only pay 10% of an adult fare.

Two adults, two infants equaled major savings. So what if they had to hold the babies for over 30 hours; the saving was worth it.

They were cognizant of the need for visas; they made sure the babies had their latest vaccinations. They even asked what happens when their oldest baby turns two during their trip and were reassured that if he left as an infant he would return as an infant too.

So off they went, down under and beyond, twittering to all their family and friends and uploading photos on Facebook.

Almost three months to the day, the real world intervened. Arriving at Melbourne airport to commence their return journey, they were stunned with the simple, almost incomprehensible statement from the Cathay Pacific representative. “Sorry, we are unable to accept your ticket as your eldest infant is over two years old.”

Esti pointed out that Royal Jordanian had confirmed that it was the age of the infant when they departed that counted; the Cathay Pacific representative was not swayed.

Furtive phone calls to Royal Jordanian went unanswered; calling their Israeli travel consultant didn’t help either. Pleading with airport personnel is never easy and rarely successful, and their supplications fell on deaf ears. Refusing to pay the astronomical amount that was being demanded for a child’s ticket, they decided to take an airport hotel and try to sort it out the next day. This would only inflame matters.

Calling Israel the next morning, the Royal Jordanian representative they contacted reiterated that no additional ticket was needed for the eldest infant, now two years and two weeks old. Cathay Pacific’s Israeli representative was more sanguine.

Blithely commenting that it was a Royal Jordanian ticket, he was happy to send an e-mail to Cathay Pacific’s office in Melbourne, asking it to permit the family to fly as reserved. Both Royal Jordanian and Cathay Pacific are in the same building in Tel Aviv, yet communication between the two was strained. Finally near the close of the business day in Tel Aviv, new flights were reserved, meals requested and a volley of new e-tickets sent out. All’s well that ends well, was the overall emotion.

Mollified that other than a 24 hour delay all would work as originally planned, the intrepid foursome returned to the airport.

Unfortunately, nobody at Cathay Pacific at the Melbourne airport was moved. In fact, the representative contacted the Royal Jordanian office in the US which confirmed that his colleague in Tel Aviv was 100% wrong. The passengers were forced to spend thousands of dollars and purchase a child’s ticket back to Israel.

SO LET’S review: Royal Jordanian personnel in Tel Aviv were adamant they were correct; in fact, they became quite aggressive informing the passengers and their travel consultant that Cathay Pacific was at fault. Moreover, they refused to provide a new child’s ticket (because they claimed it was unnecessary) and did not want to engage Cathay Pacific’s representative in Tel Aviv. The passengers were left helpless.

Squeezed between two airlines, each blaming the other, they suffered both financially and emotionally.

I can predict one thing: Royal Jordanian will reimburse them in full.

Its attitude, so all knowing, will come back to haunt it. Too many of us play the blame game, trying to shift responsibility to someone else. In this case, there is nobody else.

It was a Royal Jordanian ticket, with Royal Jordanian rules using a partner of Royal Jordanian. And this type of “royal” treatment cannot be excused.

The writer is CEO of Ziontours, Jerusalem.

For questions and comments, e-mail him at mark.feldman@ziontours.co.il


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